Photo by Mickey ZondervanIt wasn't until she gave birth to a colicky child nine years ago that Barbara Odanaka rediscovered her true calling in life.
“I was having a real tough time adjusting to motherhood,” she said. “I was climbing the walls. My therapist ordered me to do something I had loved as a child. It took me about a nanosecond to realize that it was skateboarding.”
Odanaka, a former LosAngelesTimessportswriter who first began skating in 1972, immediately jumped back into the sport. She started collecting boards—she has 22—installing special wooden floors in her house so she could skate indoors, and using Mother's Day each year as an excuse to go out all day and skate.
In 2004, while home-schooling her son, Odanaka wrote her first children's book, SkateboardMom(Putnam), about a mother who hijacks her son's skateboard and reveals herself to be a former champion skater. Odanaka, who in 1977 earned a spot on Hobie's amateur team—”The biggest thrill of my young life”—also created Skateboardmom.com and was immediately flooded by e-mails from other skateboarding moms around the country who identified themselves as being “just like the mom in the book.”
Together, they launched the International Society of Skateboarding Moms and last Mother's Day convened for the annual Mighty Mama Skate-O-Rama, an all-day skating event held at the Laguna Niguel skatepark. This year's event takes place again at Laguna Niguel.
“I started getting more and more e-mails, and now we have 300 members,” said Odanaka. “You don't have to be a mom to roll with the moms, but 95 percent of us are mothers. We have architects, astronomers, psychologists, paramedics, teachers, businesspeople, standups, even an assistant to Senator Orrin Hatch [R-Utah].”
Like many Society members, skating dominated Odanaka's life as a young woman. “I would be riding in the car looking for fresh asphalt or somewhere perfect to skate,” she explained.
Once in high school, however, her successes on the high school track team began to take over her extracurricular activities, and Odanaka suddenly stopped skating. Similarly, many society members quit skating when they took on greater responsibilities. But looking back, a great void remained in all their lives.
“Skating makes you totally focus on what you're doing; otherwise you're going to eat it,” Odanaka said. “It's kind of Zen-like, in that you have to live for the moment and be concentrating on exactly what's happening instead of worrying about poopy diapers or discipline problems.
“[It's] the best way to recharge my batteries,” she added. “Skateboarding is like Prozac on wheels.”
THE SECOND ANNUAL MIGHTY MAMA SKATE-O-RAMA AT LAGUNA NIGUEL SKATEBOARD PARK, 27745 ALICIA PKWY., LAGUNA NIGUEL,(949) 916-7755. SUN., 10 A.M.-3 P.M. $10 FEE TO SKATE. VISIT WWW.SKATEBOARDMOM.COM OR E-MAIL BARB AT BARB@SKATEBOARDMOM.COM FOR MORE INFORMATION.